As my conviction grew to complete my pastoral ministry with my congregation, my questions grew too.
While I felt more and more certain of the Spirit’s leading to shift from my pastoral ministry to focus on my writing, I wasn’t at all sure how that would work. As members, would my husband and I continue to worship at the church? Would I come back to lead weddings or funerals? Could we still be friends with people in the congregation? I’ve found it helpful to talk about these questions in the church and to share what I’ve been learning.
But my biggest concern was a different and bigger question: once I was no longer pastoring at the church, who then would be my people?
Of course I have family and friends apart from the church who love and support me. They have been, are, and will be my people in very real and profound ways before, during, and after pastoral ministry. I’m grateful for my warm circle of relationships.
But for over twenty-five years, this church has been my people too–a people and a place of worship and mutual care, where I have offered many prayers on behalf of the people and received the blessing of many prayers offered on my behalf, where I have used my gifts and flourished in ministry, where I have welcomed and grown the gifts of others, and worked together in common faith and purpose. The church has not only been my employer. In many ways, this church has been my home.
What’s more, I’ve always appreciated the synergy between my pastoral ministry and my writing, where an idea from my church work would later grow into a published article, or something I wrote in a blog post would later grow into a sermon. Regular preaching, teaching, and leading small groups allowed me to test out ideas and practice accountability. I would miss so many things about the church, and most of all I would miss that sense of Christian community, of knowing and being known, and being part of something bigger than myself.
At first my husband and I thought that we would visit different churches. That’s still part of the plan, but it was never meant to be a permanent pilgrimage. For while visiting a different church every Sunday would allow us to experience the breadth of the church in a new way, it wouldn’t ground us like having a church home. While I do have a list of churches I’d like to visit, I’m also wanting to put down roots and build relationships.
Then when I was approached by the search committee of another congregation looking for a new lead pastor, I wondered if that might be God’s call for this next season. Maybe this smaller congregation and a more focused pastoral role might mean time enough for both writing and pastoral ministry. But with writing deadlines looming in the next several months, I realized that I would need more time to discern what might be a good fit.
I felt a bit like Goldilocks tasting the porridge that was too hot, too cold, and looking for the one bowl of porridge that would be just right. Taking another full-time church position seemed like too much given my current writing commitments and potential for more. Visiting a different church every Sunday seemed like too little given my longing for Christian community and a home base. Who then would be my people, and where would I find them?
As I pondered and prayed over this, I started dreaming of what could be. I did some research. I started exploring various possibilities. And now just like Goldilocks, I think I’ve found something that’s just right.
My newest news is that I will be working on a Resident Author Partnership with Valley CrossWay Church, which is a liturgical worship community. This is such a new development that you won’t see anything about this on the Valley CrossWay website yet, but it means that I will work on my own writing projects in the context of Christian community, do some regular preaching, and serve in other ways still being discerned.
As all of this is still unfolding, I don’t have many details yet, but the main thing is that I have sensed God’s leading both in completing my pastoral ministry and moving in this new direction. While in many ways I am still saying my sad goodbyes, I am also turning a new corner with this hello. At present, I am aware of only one other Resident Author in a church setting in Canada, so this is breaking some new ground. I’m excited about the creative possibilities of this new venture and will keep you posted!
Writing/Reflection Prompt: Two separate questions arising from this reflection: (1) How have you sensed God’s leading? (2) Who are your people? i.e., Where do you find community?
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